Is the old boys club still alive?

Women in wealth have their say on the impact of the 'old boys' club' in the Canadian finance industry

Is the old boys club still alive?

Male domination, often referred to as the ‘old boys’ club’, is still cited as a key reason for why women in the wealth industry are seeing their careers stalled.

Wealth Professional spoke to 78 women in the wealth and insurance industries, and nearly 12% said an ‘old boys club’ culture is locking women out of equal pay and promotion opportunities, while just over 60% said a non-level playing field with men at work is blocking their career progress.

Tea Nicola, co-founder and CEO of WealthBar Financial Services in Canada, told Insurance Business “the old boys’ club is quite alive and well”, and claimed it is forcing women to abandon their career aspirations early.

“Daily micro-aggressions and an imperfect work environment, project delegation that was perhaps limited or unequal causes this ‘personal decision’ [of a woman] to leave the industry … it nags on you, grates on you, and slowly wears down your resistance.”

The phenomenon has the additional effect, says Nicola, of creating a dearth of women suitably qualified to join governance boards. She called for more to be done at the shop floor level of businesses. 

“I’m talking about the masses,” said Nicola. “It’s not just about C-Suites and board members. … It starts all the way [back], at university … early in your career. It is progressive, and that is where the toxicity needs to be stopped,” she said.

“We rationalise [the decision to leave a career] to keep the peace – and it is usually the last straw that broke the camel’s back – you just say: ‘That’s it. I don’t want to do this any more. I don’t want to have to pay somebody to watch my children and sit here and be abused.’ The real reason for leaving is societal,” she said.

Nicola believes quotas are useful and necessary but they are nevertheless “a shallow hole and a trap”, because they fail to address the actual reason for the lack of women qualified for board level positions.

“We have to dig deeper and find what makes those women leave their careers,” she said.

Tali Shlomo, people engagement director at the Chartered Insurance Institute, told Insurance Business that she agreed the root cause has to be understood in order to address the gender pay gap, but that pay gap reporting is helping. She said it is creating a platform for open dialogue and has led to many organisations finding and implementing initiatives to narrow the gap.

While changes to the pay gap will not be seen for “several years”, said Shlomo, other changes will take place. “Behaviours [will] start to change so that they are inclusive,” she said.